103m: No time for pie

by Arlyn on May 10, 2008

At mile 91, I began to feel the shakes of a full-scale sugar bonk coming on… Wait a sec, let me start at the beginning…

This week’s Descenders ride started from Santa Ysabel and I carpooled with Mike, Dave and Rick. The plan was to ride up to Julian as a warm up, then to Mt. Laguna, back to Julian and then up to Vulcan Mountain just for fun. After Vulcan, it’s all downhill to the cars in Santa Ysabel. Seventy-something miles.

Santa Ysabel through Julian to Stephenson Peak, back through Julian, Vulcan and down to Santa Ysabel

Climbing into Julian, we set the pace moderately with the knowledge that it was to be a big day climbing and this was just the beginning. We rolled through Julian and then south on Hwy 79 towards Cuyamaca. The climbing was even and sustained through a truly beautiful part of San Diego County. The only drawback was the traffic but we left all the cars behind after turning onto Sunrise Highway.

The pace intensified as we climbed towards Mt. Laguna. I found myself in the lead group with Voris and Rick – two of the strongest Descenders. I foolishly went to the front to share the fast tempo and quickly found myself on the back, trying to maintain contact with Voris’s wheel. Every time Rick got on the front, I lost all hope – he’s definitely KOM material. Soon, I was popped. I regrouped and just tapped out my own pace. It seemed like the gap was not increasing very much so I decided to chase and get back on. I chased desperately for 2 miles, getting within 10 or 15 meters once but never able to really close the gap. Finally, I gave up and resigned myself to finishing the climb alone. At just that precise moment, Voris and Rick sat up and waited for me – thank God! They were very nice about it and as soon as I found my legs again, I started sharing tempo (but at a modest pace this time).

Cuyamaca from Stephenson Peak

It was a clear, beautiful day. I could hardly believe the views.

At the turnoff to Mt. Laguna’s peak, we circled back to pick up the group following us. The first group was just a half mile behind and one more rider about another half mile behind them. One of the things I really like about riding with the Descenders is how much they support each other – zipping back down the road a mile to pick up team mates is testament to that support. Remembering my own desperate chase, I was more than happy to join in.
The San Diego Descenders
We climbed the last half mile to the peak and enjoyed the long views from the “Mt. Laguna Joint Surveillance System”.

Also snapped a few photos – my Descenders jersey is on order, by the way. I have to admit that hanging near this pseudo-military installation kind of gave me the creeps. There were several other signs detailing what would happen to us if we interfered with anything. I was too chicken to photograph those signs.

Soon enough, it was time to head back to Julian, and as is the Descender’s motto, “It’s all downhill from here”. Well, at least as far as Julian. We rode a very fast tempo in a well structured pace line. We were hitting speeds well over 30 mph and it was exciting to be in such a well run formation.

Descender in formation

We ran a very smooth and fast paceline back to Julian.

After Julian, the goal was to climb Vulcan Mountain, purportedly a 7+% grade for over 3 miles. We were all eyeballing each other, trying to see who had the form to climb it well as we pedaled through the gate and started the climb. Rick was going to climb in his big chain ring (would have been 53×28) because he was having problems with his front sprocket. To be honest, I think this still left him as a major contender to be the first one to the top. He’s really that strong. Just as were were getting warmed to the climb, a red Subaru came honking around us and skidded to a stop, blocking the road. A local jumped out and shouted something like – “This is private property! You boys need to stop right now, turn around and get out!”. Oh, bother…

Keep Out!See, finding a nice, long, steep climb without a ton of cars is kinda hard. And it is somewhat of a Descender tradition to ride as many nice, long, steep climbs as possible. So, we occasionally have to deal with angry locals and trespassing issues. After a bit of conversation, we gained some level of understanding on the part of the “Gatekeeper”, and maybe in the future we could arrange to ride the road, but for today, it was definitely out of the question.

All that was left was a short steep climb to Wynola Rd and the descent back to Santa Ysabel. I was a bit disappointed to miss a major climbing challenge and gave everything I had on the steep part back to Wynola, attacking Voris and Mike. They basically let me go, but I had signaled my intent to be “sporty”. After waiting for the boys at Wynola, I ripped another little attack at the beginning of the descent and it was game on. We flew down Wynola, enjoying the gentle downhill grade and the sharp turns. Speeds were in the 30’s and there was quite a bit of tactics being played. I figured that Mike and Voris would work together to drop me and I was careful to keep the correct wheel. The road straightens and rises a bit just before it rejoins Hwy 79 so I sat up to let one of the other guys do the work. Voris took off fast, way to my left and was quickly several bike lengths ahead. I knew Mike would jump so rather than do the work myself, I waited and took Mike’s wheel as he went across to Voris. We got to Hwy 79 in that order and unfortunately for me, this turned out to be the un-official finish line. Oops, last place. Oh well, it was a hell of a good time anyways.

We waited a little for the rest of the group and zipped down to Santa Ysabel, where the cars were waiting. My odometer was at just 65 miles when I came to stop by the minivan. I gotta say that I felt fantastic. I wanted more and began to consider riding the 30 miles back home instead of climbing into the minivan with the team. I asked if anyone was interested in riding back and got a few No’s and a couple of chuckles. I sat there, in the saddle with this dialog going through my head:

Good-Arlyn: You can do it

Bad-Arlyn: Get in the van

Good-Arlyn: It’s only 30 miles

Bad-Arlyn: Everyone else is getting in the van

Good-Arlyn: Take your phone, you can call Romy if you bonk

Bad-Arlyn: Just get in the van

Good-Arlyn: I am NOT getting in the van!!

Bad-Arlyn: Oh bollocks. At least get some more Gatorade at the store.

So, I took off, down Hwy 79, looking for Old Julian Hwy. I felt terrific and it’s really mostly downhill into Ramona. At each landmark, I felt more confident in my decision. Old Julian Hwy, left on ‘D’ street, Dye Rd, etc. I started climbing out of Ramona and the legs started to hurt a bit. The short climbs to Scripps Poway Pkwy brings me to mile 91 and the shivers of a sugar bonk…

So, I downed my last GU, took two long pulls of Gatorade and just sucked it up. Felt better immediately and made my way down familiar roads home. The final climbs into Scripps Ranch felt really good considering I was finishing a century with something like 8,000 feet of climbing. Maybe I was riding on adrenaline, but heading into the driveway, I felt like I could just keep going.

Here’s the final elevation profile

No Time For Pie

What a great day.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Donald May 12, 2008 at 5:49 am

Sounds like a fun ride despite being turned around on the good climb. Even better… the satisfaction of showing “Bad-Arlyn” how’s it done. Congrats! I also had a similar conversation in my head when I saw the weather conditions as I headed up a mountain this weekend. It’s on my latest post.:)

Sprocketboy May 13, 2008 at 6:47 pm

I rode in this area in January 2007 as a participant in a training camp. I still remember the climb to the top of Mt. Laguna, and the amazing fast trip back down, past the Cattle Grates of Fear.

Great story, and great landscape! I should be so lucky to have this all the time…

Arlyn Asch May 13, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Oh, the cattle grates! Worse than coming down Palomar, these grates must have 6 inches between the bars. It’s like Paris-Roubaix for 0.75 seconds.

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